Kenya: Meteorologists work with traditional rainmakers to give farmers accurate weather forecasts 

August 31, 2015
A translation for this article is available in French

Mariam Omulama sits on a mat on her veranda under the eaves of her grass-thatched roof. The eighty-year-old holds a blue radio with a long aerial. She winds the handle to power it up, then tunes to Anyole 101.2 FM community radio to listen to a weather bulletin.

Mrs. Omulama is not the only famer in the village of Esibila tuned to Anyole FM. The station has become increasingly popular since it was established ten months ago for the Nganyi community, a sub-clan of the Anyole tribe, based in Vigiga County in western Kenya. Anyole FM broadcasts farming tips, health and development programs, and entertainment in the Anyole language.

Anyole FM is one of five community radio stations established by the Kenya Meteorological Service in parts of the country which are particularly prone to flooding, drought, or unpredictable landslides.

The announcers on Anyole FM, like those on the other four stations, come from its local community. Hanah Kimani is a senior meteorologist with the Kenya Meteorological Service. She says, “We get people from a community … and we train them … Then they are able to broadcast the weather in their local language.”

Before the station was established, the Nganyi community relied on local weather predictors. The local predictors were generally accurate. But in recent years, the climate has changed rapidly. The meteorologists started working with the weather predictors to increase the accuracy of their forecasts.

In this part of Kenya, the first rains usually fall in February, and farmers traditionally plant their crops at this time. But this year, farmers heard accurate forecasts on their radios and delayed planting.

Enos Matende is one of the many local farmers who trusted the forecast he heard on Anyole FM. He says, “I did not plant crops in February this year because I knew … that the rains would [not come until] the end of March. Indeed, the first rains started on March 22.”

Monicah Omari works at Anyole FM. She says the traditional forecasters and the scientists prepare three-month forecasts, which Anyole FM then broadcasts. Miss Omari says, “Every hour in our news [items], we give weather information and tell farmers what is happening to the environment.”

Hezekiah Musungu is a shrine holder of the Nganyi community. When predicting the weather, traditional rainmakers visit sacred shrines to consult ancestral spirits. Mr. Musungu is responsible for the shrine on behalf of his clan. He says traditional rainmakers are happy that their knowledge is once again useful to the community. He explains: “Before we integrated with scientists, we were alone. The world was not with us. But now we have opened up; we are with the world. The world can hear us; the world can now know us [through the radio].”

Fridah Bulimo has also benefitted from the new weather updates. The accurate information helped her increase her crop yields fourfold. Ms. Bulimo explains, “I used to harvest one bag of maize, but [this year] I harvested four. I also used to harvest two bags of sorghum, but now I harvested eight.”

Ms. Bulimo says the radio has really helped local farmers. Before the broadcasts started, farmers planted many crops too early, and they simply withered in the field. She says, “We are well-advised by experts … who deliver the weather information. They [also] advise us on which type of seeds to plant, depending on the amount of rain [they expect].”

Sitting on her veranda, Miriam Omulama is happy. She says her yields have increased because she has been using the tips she gets from the radio. She adds, “Anyole FM keeps me updated!”